In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus tells the parables about the mustard seed and the yeast. For preachers like you and me, it can be easy to talk about how these parables are subversive. It's not just about how little things turn in to great big things. It's more about how the Kingdom of God takes over everything around it. The mustard takes over the field. The yeast takes over the bread. They are small and seem insignificant, but they change everything around them. That's how the Kingdom of God works.
It can be easy to preach a message like that. But it can still be difficult for preachers like us to believe it. Because, sometimes it seems like the things we do to bring about God's Kingdom aren't really doing a whole lot of good. You've been there. You know the struggles that take place in the church. You know how you yearn to see some fruit of your labors. You know how difficult this calling can be week after week.
But, hear this. Since the promise of Jesus is true for the people in the pews, it's also true for you who preach in the pulpit. The mustard seed you plant and the yeast that you hide in the dough - all of these little things that don't seem like much - they are indeed the ways that God is bringing the Kingdom into this world.
Scott Hoezee, at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, wrote this:
And so as bearers of God's kingdom, we keep plugging away at activities which may look silly or meaningless to the world but which we believe contain the very seed of a new creation. We keep coming to church and singing our old hymns, reciting our old formulas and creeds. All of us who preach keep cracking open an ancient book called the Bible, looking to find within it truths that are anything-but ancient. We keep gathering at sick beds and death beds and whisper our prayers for the Spirit of the resurrection to be with us in life and in death. We keep drizzling water onto squirming infants and popping cubes of white bread into our mouths in the earnest faith that through the Spirit baptism and communion don't just mean something, they mean everything.
And we keep working for Jesus in this mixed-up, backward world of ours. We quietly carry out our jobs and raise our kids and tend our marriages in the belief that God has designs for all those things and it's our job to follow them. We keep pointing people to an old rugged cross, having the boldness to suggest that the man who died on that cross is now the Lord of the galaxies.
Did you hear that, you tired preacher? What you do - not just in your professional calling, but also your others callings - it all matters! Not just that, but it makes an incredible difference! If Jesus can say that the Kingdom of God takes over this world through little things like mustard seed and yeast, then the Kingdom of God is surely taking over this world through you too! Even if you just see the little corner of the world you serve, it is still being transformed because of what God is doing through you.
Yes, you may struggle. Yes, you may feel like you are insignificant. Yes, it may seem like what you do doesn't have much effect. But in these parables, Jesus says that it is through things that seem insignificant and ineffectual that the Kingdom of God comes. So, keep preaching and giving communion and baptizing. Keep planting those mustard seeds. Keep hiding that yeast in the bread. Because, even though you may not see the fruit of it, Jesus promises that this is how the Kingdom comes. This Kingdom changes the world - and it is already happening through you!
That's a promise we all need to hear.
Kurt Lammi serves as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Dog Leg Road in Dayton, Ohio. [www.StPaulDogLeg.org] He is also author of the book "Bread for Beggars: An Anthology of Christian Poetry." [http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/1430301724#] He lives in Vandalia, Ohio, with his wife, daughter and cat.